Dear Newspapers: Focus On Enabling Your Community; Not Whining About Who Owes You Money

from the trying-this-again dept

There have been a whole series of stories lately, often from newspaper industry insiders, bemoaning the sorry state of their industry. Obviously, we've been seeing (and pointing to) similar stories for a few years now, but their pace has accelerated in the last few months -- with a pretty clear trend: blame others for the newspaper industry ills (the internet! Google! Craiglist! those darn kids! etc.), and then work out some totally hypothetical model that will somehow force someone else to pay, rather than give people a reason to buy. This distinction is pretty important.

Take, for example, this column by Gary Storch, explaining why newspapers need to start charging online. Media mogul Steven Brill is also arguing the same thing (which is doubly amusing since Brill tried and failed to get people to pay for content online). I won't go through the long list of arguments of why that's silly (that's been done before), but just note that the focus is on "newspapers need to charge," and not on "what can we provide that someone's willing to pay for." That's rather important, because it's pretty clear that just charging for news won't get enough people to pay. Next up, is Peter Orsig's rather confused demand that Google rescue newspapers (again, not a new idea by any means). That column had numerous factual problems -- torn to shreds nicely by both Mark Potts and Mathew Ingram. Again, though, the issue is that the focus is on just getting someone else (Google, instead of readers this time) to hand over money, rather than figuring out a way to improve their product in a way that anyone would choose willingly to give them money.

This theme seems to run through much of the discussion around newspapers and business models. Even as they're doing a better and job attracting an online audience, you almost never hear of newspapers looking for ways to better serve that community in a manner that offers up things they want to pay for. Instead, it's all about coming up with ways to demand money, as if it's something they're owed. They're not, and they're discovering that day by day, even if they're unwilling to admit it.

It's time for newspapers to start looking at ways they can add value and give someone, whether individuals, sponsors or others, a good reason to give them money. So far they're failing, and a big part why is that they still view their readers as an "audience" rather than a community. That's why they do little to enable that community to do more, instead focusing on passing down the word from on high. That's not how communities work, and the end result is the mess that so many newspapers are facing today.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: business models, communities, newspapers

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2009 @ 8:42am


    Media mogul Steven Brill is also arguing the same thing (which is doubly amusing since Brill tried and failed to get people to pay for content online).

    Failure loves company.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord

The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...

Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.